Christmas cheer and gift ideas at Afkart

BEIRUT: The Afkart exhibition kicked off at BIEL Wednesday, offering visitors a wealth of options in time for last-minute Christmas shopping. Held in BIEL’s Hall 3 this weekend, the annual exhibition, which was launched in 2002, runs until Sunday. Organized by the Beirut Association for Social Development, a nonprofit organization that works to meet the needs of the Lebanese community through economic, social, educational and health initiatives, Afkart aims to promote Lebanese talents.

First-time exhibitor Lina Husseini is displaying her papier-mache creations. Husseini relies on puffed up shapes as a base for her inflated cows, fish, giraffes, birds and more. Each creation is painted over with colorful acrylic patterns and is mounted on either plexi or wooden stands, a perfect ornament to brighten up a somber interior space. “I’ve been creating for almost a year and a half. I use puffed shapes because this is how the characters exist in my imagination. The shapes make me laugh while I work,” Husseini said.

French ladies Carine Serres and Sandra Moucachen, also first-time exhibitors, are behind Yes We Kits, which offers ready-made recipes presented in a clever artistic package. The pair is selling cookie mix in crafty glass bottles.

“The recipe is attached around the bottle neck with graphic instructions on how to mix and bake the cookies, which can be served in under 15 minutes,” Moucachen told The Daily Star. “Our next idea is to prepare a kit for table decorations including plates, ribbons, name tags, center table decorations and more.”

Among the new stands was Bader Hassoun & Sons of Tripoli’s Khan al-Saboun, a family-owned business that has been operating since 1480. The company has 1,400 organic products, all tested on humans and not animals.

(The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

They displayed aromatherapy soaps, herbal soaps, essential oil collections, an organic skin care line including exfoliating soap pastes made from wheat, oat, pomegranate skin and grape seed, a hair care collection, a spa collection including the finest oils and sea salt, and more.

“Our olive oil soap, which people here don’t use, Galleries Lafayatte is now selling for 8 euros. People are starting to value organic products which we pioneered hundreds of years ago,” said Amir Hassoun, a fifth-generation Hassoun.

“People are also very surprised when they learn that Khan al-Saboun is now selling to China,” Hassoun added enthusiastically.

The family business will also be featured in next year’s Guinness World Records book for creating the most expensive soap bar, made from diamonds and gold, sold for $2,800. “It’s a bain-marie with honey and olives and argan oils,” he said.

One can also find several jewelry designers and painters along with a variety of up-and-coming fashion designers at the exhibition. But the design corner also extended to unlikely fashion explorers: Roumieh prisoners. Annick Tabet, jewelry designer and volunteer at AJEM, the Association Justice and Mercy, which works to promote human rights in prisons, visits Roumieh prison once a week and holds arts and crafts workshop for prisoners.

Bags, paintings, cushions, aprons, beaded necklaces and cheese plates made of dried banana leaves, bought from India, are some of the items on display at the AJEM stand.

(The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

“I try to sell the work at exhibitions and all the money goes back to the prisoners to buy medicine, gifts for their children, clothes and more. I’ve been contributing to this cause for almost eight years,” Tabet said.

In the food court, a group of Palestinian women were selling traditional food at the Falastini 100 percent stand, representing the Women’s Program Association, which works to empower women in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

“We started a year ago. For six months, Souk El Tayeb trained the women how to cook, cater and preserve food with attention to hygiene. We sell their food in exhibitions and we also deliver,” said Mariam Shaar from the program.

“I always attend Afkart, it’s nice to check out the exhibitors every year, but it’s also sad to see many of them go. It could be that they made it big and don’t need a local exhibition anymore,” Dima Morccos suggested while sipping on a glass of red wine from The Boutique Wineries of Lebanon stand.

Afkart welcomes visitors Dec. 17-19 from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. and Dec. 20 and 21 from 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. at BIEL Hall 3, Beirut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 18, 2014, on page 2.




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